January 14, 2016: Belmont Goes Solar: A Matter of Perspective

Belmont Citizen-Herald: January 14, 2016

Now, tell me truly. Did you think the dress was white and gold or was that dress blue and black? This difference in perception captured the imagination of the Internet in 2015.

The Belmont Goes Solar campaign now unfolding in town poses a similar question of perspective. Is the installation of solar panels on your roof best viewed as a way to prevent global climate change; is it best viewed as a way to earn a good return on your money; or is it best viewed as a way to minimize your long-term electricity bill?

In reality, the answer to that question should have little impact on whether you participate in Belmont Goes Solar. Any one of those answers presents a reason unto itself to avail yourself of the benefits of Belmont Goes Solar.

Let me fully disclose here. When the Board of Selectmen decided last fall that they wished to have a Belmont Goes Solar campaign in town, they asked the Town’s Energy Committee to organize it. As co-chair of the Energy Committee, I have also been chairing the group of volunteers that has organized Belmont Goes Solar and is promoting it. Having said that, let me tell you why I think that campaign is not only a good idea, but a great idea.

Ask yourself the following questions. Do you believe that, as the federal government imposes stricter clean air quality standards over the next 20 years, electricity will become cheaper or more expensive? If you respond “more expensive,” you should be interested in installing solar panels. The electricity produced by those panels is yours. That electricity will not be subject to any future price increases due to environmental clean-up costs. As electricity prices increase to pay for cleaner electricity, the electricity produced by your solar panels will be unaffected.

Are you earning 14% on your investments today? My wife and I surely are not. If you install solar panels today, taking advantage of state and federal tax credits, in addition to the time-limited price discount offered through Belmont Goes Solar, you will experience a payback of between six and seven years. The “payback period” is the number of years over which the savings generated by your panels exceeds the amount you spent on them; after that, it’s all profit. A seven year payback equals a 14% return on your investment. No other safe place exists today where you can earn that return.

Do you believe the earth’s climate is changing due to the pollution humankind dumps into the air? If you have noticed that the incidence of severe weather (think 2015 snow storms) has increased, or that the Western U.S. has been hammered with drought, or that the Arctic ice cap is melting, you should be interested in installing solar panels through Belmont Goes Solar.

The point is, however, that you need not believe in all of these. It’s a matter of perspective. Whether or not you believe in global climate change, Belmont Goes Solar will maximize your investment returns. Whether or not you have money tucked away in stocks and bonds, Belmont Goes Solar will help you make your own individual contribution to prevent catastrophic global climate change.

Belmont Goes Solar has its next “meet the installer” gathering at the Beech Street Center on the afternoon of Saturday, January 23, 2016. Whether you saw a white/gold dress or a blue/black dress, you should be there. Whether you want long-term financial security or want long-term security for the earth’s climate, you should be there. Whether you are fully committed to solar or merely curious, you should attend.

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